Who's Pushing Your Web Surfboard?
Dear Squeak and Blat,
Someone asked me the other day if I was using any "push" clients on my computer. I assured him that no one was pushing me around or messing with items on my computer! I really had no idea what this meant. What is this "push" thing anyway and how might it be useful for music applications?
Cyber Beach Boy
Dear Beach Boy:
Well, no one is really pushing you around, John--at least not in most cases. The new "push" technologies that are emerging on the Internet really get there name from the fact that they provide automated data delivery to your desktop. Unlike email or newsgroup readers that must be activated and managed by you, a push client sends you new information on particular topics immediately when you ask to be brought up to date. You can even automate the "asking" so that each time you turn on your computer (or at specific intervals while you have your computer on) the client software will ask a remote server to send information to the client. You get the information "pushed" to your desktop.
Most clients allow you to choose "channels" of information (not unlike broadcast TV really) that are devoted to special topics such as news from USA Today or stock market updates. You might choose special topics like the arts news or the latest stock prices from special companies. The very latest information on these topics is sent to your computer. For example, The PointCast Network client provides channels devoted to news from national and regional newspapers, items from CNN, weather, sports, business, life style and health topics, and technology trends.
Some channels from clients might be devoted to software upgrades that would come to you automatically as an official owner of a product. Other channels might contain advertising or special offers from companies in which you have a special interest. In terms of music, there are very few channels devoted to specialized topics in music as yet but we are betting that this will change.
Push clients exist on both Mac and Wintel machines. The new Mac OS8 distribution media contain two clients for you to try, PointCast Network and Castanet Tuner. Of course other clients are available too for the Mac and most are free or inexpensive.
If you want to learn more about push technologies, you might try the following:
For places to download clients: http://www8.zdnet.com/pcmag/iu/browse/push/_push.htm
For information about push technology: http://www.zdnet.com/products/browseruser/push.html
Try one of these push clients John! You might like to be pushed a little every other day or so!
Someone's trying to push you around while you are doing all that neat surfing, Beach Boy? Well it is up to you to decide who can push your surfboard and who doesn't. The push technology that Blat talked about is surfacing all over the place. Some of the newest browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer have push technology built into them. These things are just like TV channels, if you don't turn the TV on or don't dial into a certain channel, you never have to get on your surfboard. But, you'll never experience the thrill of the big wave!
I'm in love with what I've seen so far with push stuff and have found some creative places to ride. I've been using PointCast (a free download from http//: www.pointcast.com) for the past year. They were the original web push technology folks. Since my office is directly connected to the Internet, every 30 minutes Pointcast updates all the channels I've subscribed to. So I get the latest weather reports (I even kept track of the weather over in Austria and Hungary when Blat was over there a few months again floating up the Danube using his trumpet case as a raft); news; articles keyed to companies like Microsoft and Apple and Yahoo; the latest in technology news, hardware, software, and networking; and lots more. Pointcast is set as my screen saver, so it constantly displays news tidbits that it has downloaded from the push channel.
Subscribing to a push server gives you instant access to latest news for the asking and in a highly concise fashion customized to only what you want to know and read. This summer we used the weather reports to plan for contingencies with our outdoor Shakespeare Festival performances. I've discovered some great new shareware software from ZDNET and articles reviewing printers, digital cameras, and removable storage drives. And, I usually learn of special plane ticket pricing from the Travel section of CNN online before it hits the print media. You can also update your push database on your laptop and then read the files while sipping a cup of java or in flight at 32,000 feet with no network connection available. However, it is important to take time to learn how to customize the push clients so you get the best speed possible when you are trying to catch the best "news wave" for net surfing.
Blat gave you some good links for checking out the push stuff. I'm a fan of PointCast but check out Netcaster that ships with the full install of Netscape Communicator 4.0 and Webcasting that ships with Internet Explorer 4.0. Other push software developers include BackWeb (www.backweb.com), Marimba's Castenet (www.marimba.com), inCommon's Downtown (www.incommon.com), and Intermind's Communicator (www.intermind.com).
It is possible for you to set up your own pushserver and use it to broadcast news, software, agendas and minutes, and anything else you can think of just within your own college or department intranet. Check out Pointcast's College Network as an example of this.
Push technology sure beats hunting all over the Internet for the right wave to ride!
Peter R. Webster (a.k.a “Blat”) and David Brian Williams (a.k.a. “Squeak”) have presented workshops and other presentations together for CMS/ATMI conferences and workshops for more than 20 years. Their collaboration has led to publications and presentations internationally on music technology as well as the co-authorship of the textbook Experiencing Music Technology (Cengage Learning/Schirmer Books, 3rd edition Update, 2009), a widely adopted and highly acclaimed music technology textbook for high school and college students. Dr. Webster is emeritus professor of music education at Northwestern University and Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Southern California; Dr. Williams is emeritus professor of music and arts technology at Illinois State University, a freelance consultant, composer and musician, and immediate past president of The College Music Society.